The Master Musicians of Jajouka were introduced to much of the Western world in 1969 when they released an album produced by the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones a month before his drowning death (Brian Jones Presents: The Master Musicians of Jajouka). The band, comprised of sons of sons of musicians, subsequently recorded several unforgettable albums on their own and have been featured on albums by Ornette Coleman, the Rolling Stones, Randy Weston, Maceo Parker, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant. An album released by the group in 1992, Apocalypse Across the Sky, was produced by Bill Laswell.
Possessing a unique sound and proclaimed "one of the most musically inspiring groups in the world" by Mick Jagger, the group perform a hypnotic style of music that the African Music Encyclopedia described as "a strange (at least to Western ears) combination of high-pitched, nasal, buzzing sounds (imagine a swarm of bees) with surging waves of rhythm which can induce an ecstatic trance state." An all-male group, the Master Musicians of Jajouka have been performing their unique, drone-heavy music for several thousand years, featuring 15 rhaita (a double-reed, oboe-like instrument) players and five drummers. Only a son of a master musician can become a master musician, and members of the group, who speak Arabic, adopt the surname "Attar" (which translates as "the perfume maker").
The band continues to reside in Jajouka, a small village in the foothills of the Rif Mountains. Unknown to the Western world for most of their history, the Master Musicians of Jajouka were "discovered" in the '50s by beat novelist William Burroughs and Paul Bowles, who recorded the band for the Library of Congress. Brian Jones was introduced to the group by painter, writer, and metaphysician Brion Gysin. In the early '90s, the Master Musicians of Jajouka were led by Bachir Attar, whose father had led the group in the late '60s. The Master Musicians of Jajouka's first tour of the United States in 1997 included a reenactment of the week-long lunar feast of Aid El Kabir. In 1999, the group was visited by Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo. By the end of the '90s, the electronica world had embraced the group as well; Talvin Singh produced their 2000 album The Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar. ~ Craig Harris